This isn’t Tingles talking out of his rear, I don’t think. He was at the White House for lunch today with Obama along with a few other journalists to receive some advance spin about tonight’s marathon snoozer, so this subject must have come up. And much to my surprise, assuming he’s accurately relaying The One’s words here, the White House is planning to take this issue on. Why would Obama want to do that knowing full well that new gun control measures won’t pass the House? For the same reason, presumably, that the GOP’s pushing ObamaCare repeal knowing that it won’t pass the Senate: Namely, optics. An Obama gun control speech will, I assume, be exceedingly modest in its demands. Lots of lip service to the Second Amendment and America’s fine hunting tradition, plenty of upfront concessions about not wanting to ban handguns, etc. He can’t afford to be aggressive on this issue, after all: Even knowing that nothing will pass the House and end up on his desk, he has to be careful about alienating the sort of rural Democrats he needs to win states like Pennsylvania. Peter Beinart:
Unlike crime, which was a constant presence, continually reminding Americans of the absurdity of allowing dangerous people to buy high-tech weapons, episodes like the one in Tucson produce a temporary spike in support for gun control, which quickly recedes. According to a CNN-Gallup poll, 28 percent of Americans said the Giffords shooting made them more likely to support gun control. But according to Pew, there were similar spikes after Columbine and Virginia Tech, and they had no lasting effect.
So there’s little chance Obama will lose votes by avoiding the gun issue. He just doesn’t have a big problem among the kinds of voters who support gun control: minorities, urbanites and white liberals. What he does have is a serious problem with gun control opponents, who are disproportionately white, male non-college educated and rural. They are, in other words, exactly the people with whom Barack Obama struggles, even compared to other Democrats. That’s why Hillary Clinton beat him by ten points in the Pennsylvania and Ohio primaries and almost 40 points in the West Virginia primary. And she did so, in part, by clobbering him for having said that in times of economic distress, working-class whites “cling to guns or religion.”
What he’ll do, I take it, is limit himself to “common sense” restrictions on, say, high-capacity magazines of the sort Loughner used in Arizona. A CNN poll taken 10 days ago showed 61 percent support for a ban on those, and of course no less a figure than Dick Cheney suggested that American can do without them. The point wouldn’t be to see any such measure pass, it’d merely be to use the issue as a wedge against the Republican House while pandering to his base. Even so, why he’d want to risk angering voters who pay close attention to gun rights issues in order to please a wider audience whose interest in this issue will fade as the Arizona shootings recede from the news cycle is bizarre to me. And tackling it in a speech devoted to the subject instead of slipping it into some broader address, like tonight’s, is doubly bizarre given that there’s no way to downplay the message afterwards if there’s a backlash. Maybe he was just telling Tingles what he wanted to hear? Click the image to watch.